When Kelly Yoon, a 38-year-old mother from the middle-class enclave of Songdo on the outskirts of Seoul, attended a school event for her nine-year-old daughter, she was stunned by the designer goods dripping from the other moms.
“I saw all kinds of Chanel bags on my way to the classroom,” she said. “Mothers love Bulgari’s Diva’s Dream and Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewelry collections, and a Moncler winter jacket is actually a ‘uniform’ for moms here. The most popular car is a Mercedes-Benz SUV.”
It’s a scene playing out across the country, where a potent mix of status seekers, cashed up homeowners and YOLO-ing (you only live once) millennials has combined to make South Koreans the world’s biggest per-capita spenders on luxury brands.
Koreans’ spending on personal luxury goods from designer handbags to $2,000 puffer jackets, rose 24% to 21.8 trillion won ($16.8 billion) in 2022 — equal to about $325 for every man, woman and child, according to a Morgan Stanley report published earlier this month.